Jury rules First Baptist must pay for teen’s death

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Members of the First Baptist Church of Columbiana remain stunned by a Baldwin County Circuit Court ruling handed down last week.

The ruling, the result of a jury trial, will force the church to pay $950,000 in damages to the family of 16-year-old Terry White, who died on a church-sponsored trip to south Alabama.

White died May 31, 2000, at Perdido Bay while on a mission trip with First Baptist’s Challengers Group.

The group travels to Camp Dixie each year, according to news reports at the time, to minister to Hispanic migrant workers in town for the summer.

Neither White, a Shelby County High School student, nor his parents, Norman and Quilla Katrina White, are members of the church.

FBC pastor Mike Miller expressed the shock of the congregation.

&uot;Based on what our lawyer told us, there are no grounds for appeal,&uot; he said.

Rev. Miller said the ruling &uot;sets a dangerous precedent for churches across Alabama.&uot;

&uot;You can’t always control every circumstance, and the fact is that accidents do happen. And often, they happen despite of your best efforts,&uot; he said. &uot;You can never expect something to happen in knee-deep water.&uot;

Miller said the ruling had been an &uot;emotional blow&uot; to the church.

&uot;There were two tragedies here. The first occurred May 31, 2000, with the terrible, unspeakable death of Terry White. Then, there was the jury verdict,&uot; he said. &uot;That was also a tragedy.&uot;

Although the church has learned to be &uot;as careful as we possibly can,&uot; Miller said, members are &uot;committed to continuing to do God’s work.&uot;

&uot;We cannot allow fear to paralyze us from doing the Lord’s work,&uot; he said